Fantasy owners typically feel confident top-loading the Draft Kings contest on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks. The new rules package this week threw several drivers for a loop, however, with Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, and Chase Elliott all qualifying in the back half of the field. Since Draft Kings offers points for place-differential, that is not necessarily a bad thing.
It is highly unlikely those three drivers will finish outside the top 20. It’s just going to take a little while before they get comfortable with the setup on these cars.
Kevin Harvick is another driver starting deep in the field. Battling steering problems throughout Friday, he told Fox Sports 1: “We don't really know what to change to make it different. If we had to race right now, we'd be in the garage and headed home. It's been a tough day. ... We haven't learned anything and don't know anything to head in a different direction right now.” Given his price tag of $12,200 – the highest in this week’s contest – it is prudent to let him sit in the Atlanta garage and roll him out for Las Vegas Motor Speedway if he outperforms expectations.
Greater than $9,000
Joey Logano ($11,700)
Logano made a mistake in qualification. He tried to hook the bottom and nearly spun on his first lap in Round 3 and then shut his engine down after posting a slow time. He told reporters later that he was running on habit in doing so. In the morning practice, he was ninth-fastest, however, and should have more speed in his car than the 27th-place qualification effort suggests. The fastest line appears to be the top and it won’t take long for Logano to move up there if necessary.
Kyle Busch ($10,500)
Of the Big 3, Busch struggled the least in Friday practice and qualification. He was eighth-best in practice and picked up in time trials to post the sixth-best qualification. While Atlanta has not always been his best track, he was almost perfect on 1.5-milers last year with nine top-10s in 10 races. He finished seventh in the 2018 QuikTrip 500, won on this track as recently as 2013, and has a current streak of six lead lap finishes. Texas Motor Speedway is a track that bears some similarity to Atlanta and he won there last year.
Between 7,001 and $8,999
Matt DiBenedetto ($7,600)
DiBenedetto is on the low-side of this price range. He is picking up where Kasey Kahne and Michael McDowell before him left off and should be a contender to earn a top 15 at the very least. If he can do that, he will add at least five place-differential points to his total. For that matter, no one would be completely surprised if he was able to earn a top-10. For the moment, fantasy players need to toss out the old stats for this driver and make decisions based on his potential.
Aric Almirola ($8,700)
Stewart-Haas Racing was dominant on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks last year. Mostly this was because of the strength shown by Harvick, but Almirola and the remainder of the organization had some powerful performances as well. Leading the field to green this Sunday should allow the No. 10 to rack up some laps led early. He rolls off the grid next to Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who is expected to fade in the opening laps. Almirola ended 2018 with four straight top-10s on "cookie-cutter" courses and with a little improvement, should be able to get his first top-five in two years on this track type. Teammate Clint Bowyer lines up right behind him, but at $9,100 he is just a little too pricey this week.
Less than $7,000
Ryan Newman ($6,900)
Newman has not yet shown his capabilities in 2019 and that is good news for players. There is absolutely no reason he should be priced below $7,000 – especially considering that his less experienced teammate Stenhouse is $600 more expensive. Newman starts 13th and should contend for a top-10. Roush Fenway Racing was once a dominant team on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks and there is no reason Newman should not contend for a top-10 this week. Few drivers are better at carrying a car on their back than this bulldog.
Daniel Hemric ($6,800)
Richard Childress Racing is strong enough to make Hemric a good value most weekends. One of the best things about this modestly-priced driver, however, is that he qualified 28th and should be able to score significant place-differential points. Expect a finish in the mid-teens and if he gets it, that will add 13 – 17 points to his total.